Getting plastic surgery shouldn't be an easy decision. Here's what you need to know before going under the knife


Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen have made a career out of looking alike (although the famous twins are fraternal, not identical) but after the duo stepped out on a recent red carpet, it seems that era is over. Mary-Kate's face looked remarkably different, making for an eerie "before and after" comparison. And Mary-Kate isn't alone-several big-name stars appear to have radically altered their iconic faces with plastic surgery recently. Renee Zellwegger's transformation was so drastic it caused a public outcry. "Sometimes you think, looking at stars, 'They looked better before!' and you have to wonder why they did it," says Eugene Elliott, M.D., a board-certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, CA. "Were they pushed to do it by an agent? Are they trying to fix unhappiness in life? You can't judge other people from the outside but sometimes you do wish you could just talk to them about it."

Getting plastic surgery can be amazing and life-changing, Elliott says, but only if you do it in the right way. Here are 12 things he wishes people would know before going under the knife.

A Plastic Surgeon Is Not a Fairy Godmother



Have realistic expectations, both of what your body is capable of accepting and of what your surgeon is capable of doing. "It isn't realistic to come in asking to look like a particular celebrity," he says. "We can't make you into a different person but what we can do is make you into a better version of you." (Also, check out The Truth About "Holistic" Plastic Surgery.)

Get Surgery for You (Not Someone Else)



"Pressure from friends or a boyfriend, a gift from parents, social recognition-none of these are good reasons to get surgery," Elliott says. Rather, he looks for patients who want to get the procedures for themselves.

Getting Turned Down Could Be Good



"I've absolutely told people no. Some people are just not good candidates for the plastic surgery they want. We're not doing this to make you upset, we're trying to protect you."

Some Surgeons Will Operate on Anyone



...But that doesn't mean you should let them. "Everyone's got to pay their bills, so you'll be able to find someone willing to do the surgery you wan-but that still doesn't make it a good idea," he says, adding that the primary thing to look for in a good plastic surgeon, after making sure they're board-certified, is communication. You have to be able to trust him or her. Having a trusting relationship with your doctor is important for your health. Check out 6 Things You're Not Telling Your Doc But Should.

Getting Surgery Won't Fix Your Life!



Getting your breasts done won't make an unfaithful boyfriend stop cheating. Getting a brow lift won't make a husband with a wandering eye stop looking at younger women. Getting lipo won't get you that job promotion you've been denied. "Surgery can absolutely enhance your life," Elliott says, "but in the end, it's just fixing something on the outside. It can't fix your whole life."

It Can Become a Vicious Cycle



"Sometimes you see people who get surgery, hate the results, get more surgery to 'fix' it-or sometimes they love the results-but they get caught in this cycle of always trying to do one more thing, to try to look perfect," Elliott says. But there is no "perfect" and even if there were, would it really be beautiful?

Don't Do It to Feel More Beautiful



Don't think that having surgery will make you suddenly love yourself, Elliott cautions. People who are generally unhappy with their looks will still be unhappy with the way they look, no matter how well the surgery goes because at a certain point you have to learn to love yourself, imperfections included. Rather, he says the patients who are happiest get surgery to fix something specific like a hooked nose, scars from a childhood accident, or too-large breasts. "These surgeries are the ones I love doing the most because they can change change your whole life for the better," he says.

See a Therapist Beforehand



Elliott says it never hurts to talk to a therapist about why exactly you want surgery before you ever talk to a doctor. In fact, he'll often recommend people see one if he thinks they haven't thought it all through yet. "People will say, 'I don't like my face' but then I ask, 'Well what is it you don't like? What are you hoping to achieve?' and I know immediately from their answers if they're ready," he explains. (Also, here are 5 DIY Health Checks That Could Save Your Life.)

It Isn't Easy to Fix Bad Plastic Surgery



Despite what you may have seen on TV, corrective surgery is very difficult to do and the risks are amplified.

Know Your Pain Tolerance



Any surgery entails risk and plastic surgery is no different-except the results are often even more visible than other surgeries. Even when everything goes right, there's still a lot of pain involved in recovery. And no one wants to think they'll be the person to have a complication, but you need to be prepared to handle it if something does go wrong.

It Isn't Easy for Surgeons Either



Plastic surgeons have to be both medical doctor and psychological guru-to a person they've only met a couple of times. "I'm always amazed at how easily people are willing to put their lives in my hands, it's a great responsibility and sometimes we worry too," he says.

You Can Be Too Young



"I've seen some very mature younger people," Elliott says, "but often young people simply may not have the life experience to make a decision of this magnitude."